Foreigners help create jobs for S’poreans: PM Lee

PM Lee says foreigners help create more jobs for Singaporeans. (AFP file photo)
PM Lee says foreigners help create more jobs for Singaporeans. (AFP file photo)

Contrary to the complaints of many Singaporeans, foreigners are actually creating more good jobs for citizens here, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday.

Speaking at the opening of a S$3.7 billion wafer fabrication facility, PM Lee said that for every one foreign worker employed by the project proponent, IM Flash Singapore, 1.5 local jobs were created, The Straits Times reported.

The Intel and Micron-owned electronics plant in Woodlands boasts state-of-the-art technology, making memory chips used in popular electronic gadgets such as smartphones and tablet computers.

PM Lee cited statistics to rebut the notion that foreigners are competing with Singaporeans for jobs. He said that of the 1,200 workers at IM Flash Singapore, six in 10 employees are Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs), and four in 10 are foreigners.

Furthermore, two-thirds of the managerial and professional positions are taken up by Singaporeans and PRs, while two-thirds of the technician and manufacturing jobs are done by foreigners.

"Without the foreign workers, we would not have attracted this US$3 billion investment, and Intel and Micron would have built its wafer fab elsewhere," said PM Lee.

"But by allowing in a controlled number of foreign workers, far from disadvantaging Singaporean workers, we have created more good jobs for Singaporeans. For every one foreign worker, we have created 1.5 local jobs in this project," he added.

The semiconductor industry in Singapore employs 40,000 workers, with more than 3,300 new jobs created last year.

PM Lee highlighted that with a fiercely competitive global semiconductor industry here -- Singapore ranks second in the world in terms of wafer capacity -- there will be many skilled, high-paying jobs that Singaporeans can take up.

The construction of the wafer fab plant was initially announced in 2007 and the factory shell was built in 2008. By then, IM Flash had hired hundreds of employees, but due to the global financial crisis and the drop in demand for electronic components, it laid off some 800 workers, including about 500 then in the US undergoing training.

However, the plans for the plant were revived in April last year after the economy picked up, said managing director of IM Flash Chen Kok Sing.

Chen added that half of those who had been let go previously had since rejoined the company. He also said that the company intends to hire an additional 300 staff by next year.

PM Lee praised Singaporeans' ability to pull through tough times, which is a key survival trait for a small country. He added that Singaporeans must "stay nimble, resilient and cohesive to ride the storms".

The MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC also added that what was needed was "far-sighted leadership who can anticipate problems, plot a safe path through the dangers and find new ways to maximise our opportunities".

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